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Lower house Novichok debate ends before it begins

A lower house debate on statements made about Novichok by Czech President Miloš Zeman ended before it began on Thursday. Only 40 deputies declared themselves present for the Christian Democrat-tabled discussion. As the quorum for the lower house is 57 declared MPs, the speaker abandoned the debate.

Other deputies were actually in the chamber but had declined to place their voting cards in their voting devices. The Mayors and Independents Vít Rakušan described the situation as a new level of obstruction.

Critics were angered after Mr. Zeman claimed that a small amount of Novichok had been produced and tested in this country. The nerve agent was in the news after the poisoning of two Russians led the UK and other states, including the Czech Republic, to expel Russian diplomats.

Transparency: ANO government laid off more top staff than admitted

The anti-corruption group Transparency International says the acting ANO government has made more layoffs of senior civil servants than it previously admitted. The government says that 23 top jobs were discontinued in December due to reorganisation. But Transparency International says the actual figure was 37.

The ANO prime minister in resignation, Andrej Babiš, said at the time that the state administration was bloated and that reorganisation could save up to CZK 18 million.

Trams covered in excuses aim to encourage free riders to pay

Two black-painted trams adorned with written excuses frequently proffered by passengers without tickets have gone into service in Prague.

The Czech term for free riders is “black passenger” and the trams are part of a campaign entitled “Are you riding black?”

Also part of the drive is an offer of half-price fines for free riding if the offending passenger purchases a yearly pass.

Number of non-smokers climbs in Czech Republic

The number of non-smokers in the Czech Republic rose by 3.5 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to new data released on Thursday. Last year 24 percent of respondents in an annual survey conducted by the State Health Institute said that they were smokers.

The latest figures were released on the first anniversary of the introduction of a ban on smoking in Czech bars and restaurants.

The acting health minister, Adam Vojtěch, said the prohibition was influencing the number of smokers in view of the fact that young people were the biggest smokers and many of them begin the habit in bars and nightclubs.

Czechs, Slovaks and Americans commemorate Pittsburgh Agreement in Prague

The importance of the Pittsburgh Agreement was recalled in an event at the Czech Senate on Wednesday evening. Senate deputy chairman Jaroslav Kubera, Slovak ambassador Peter Weiss and US ambassador Stephen B. King were among those who attended the ceremony, which came on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the document’s signing.

The Pittsburgh Agreement was a memorandum of understanding between the Czech and Slovak communities in the US to create an independent Czechoslovakia. It was signed on May 31, 1918 and the new country came into existence in October of that year.

Russian embassy denies Marshal Konev’s participation in 1968 invasion

The Russian embassy in Prague has denied that former WWII Red Army marshal Ivan Konev took part in the planning of the 1968 Soviet Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the reformist communist movement in the country.

The embassy pointed out that Konev had already retired from an active role in the army in April 1963 and had been transferred to the army general inspectorate. It added that there was no archive proof of his participation in the 1968 preparations.

The denial comes as the Prague 6 district is reported to be preparing to put a plaque on a monumental statue of Marshal Konev describing his preparations in the 1968 invasion. The statue is a frequent target for attacks. Konev led the Red Army forces that entered Prague at the end of the Second World War.

Weather forecast

Friday should be bright with the chance of storms in the Czech Republic. Daytime highs are expected to reach up to 29 degrees Celsius. Forecasters say the weekend will bring rain and temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius before fine weather returns at the start of next week.